THE JOY OF JARS
Desiri Wightman, RD
Attractive, simple, inexpensive, tasty, appreciated! What more could you ask for in a gift? Mixes or recipe ingredients layered beautifully in sparkly canning jars gleam with holiday charm and make perfect offerings for neighbors, co-workers, friends, and extended family members. Best of all, recipients can choose when to tap into the jar to bake a treat.
With the bombardment of sweets during the holiday season, it's delightful to have a reminiscent treat on reserve to serve when January blues hit. Raffia strands, curly ribbon, fabric squares, or holiday bows easily transform jars into festive gifts. And don't forget to attach the recipe, along with holiday greetings, either hand-written or printed out on DVO recipe cards.
To contain your cooking joy in a jar, keep the following tips in mind:
1. Gather the supplies. You'll need clean canning jars, lids, bands, ingredients, a funnel, and a tamping tool.
2. While the large opening of wide-mouth jars makes them the jar of choice, you can easily make due with other jars. In fact, gifts-in-a-jar may be the perfect solution for recycling glass mayonnaise jars that cannot be used in home canning.
3. If you don't own a funnel, roll a square of parchment paper, or even just writing paper, into a cone. Insert the narrow end into the jar, and then pour the ingredients through the wide opening down into the jar.
4. The tamping tool is for compressing the ingredients in the jar without disturbing the layers. Use anything that will fit into the mouth of the jar. Try the back of a spoon, a small, clean fist, or a wooden pestle.
5. Use only high quality ingredients. Now is not the time to get rid of those rock-solid marshmallows that have been reclining in your cupboard for the past two years. You want friends to have success with the recipe when they bake it up because it will reflect back on you. Therefore, use fresh, tasty ingredients that will ensure good flavor, even if recipients wait six months before opening the jar.
6. Think through the order of the ingredients when layering. Place finely textured ingredients on the bottom and chunkier textured ones on top. In this way, the fine ingredients won't filter down through the others, losing the layered appearance. For example, if you are making a chocolate-chip cookie mix jar, place the white sugar and flour at the bottom of a jar. Put the chocolate chips atop those fine ingredients. If you placed the chocolate chips at the bottom, the sugar and flour would filter down through them, turning them white and gritty. Brown sugar, when compressed, can be a dividing layer in mixes. This means that you can place flour and granulated sugar atop the brown sugar with no worries of it filtering down to ingredients below it.
7. For the best appearance, tamp the individual layers of ingredients down before adding another ingredient. This will not only help you fit all the necessary food in the jar, but it will also help define the layers. Getting rid of any excess wiggle room will keep the layers attractive during transportation and the gift-giving process, too.
8. If you aren't concerned about layers (as in a jar of pancake mix), simply shake the ingredients down to get in as much as possible.
9. Consider placing a "Best if Used By . . ." date on the gift if you fear ingredients will lose their quality during storage.
10. Make extra jars to put under your own tree for those moments when you hear "Oh no, I forgot to get a gift for so and so." Consider even addressing some jars to yourself to keep ahead of the when you hear, "I need a treat for the basketball team tomorrow." Think beyond the Christmas box (or should I say jar), too, by retrieving these ideas year round for birthdays and special occasions.
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *